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Bus Rapid Transit Gets Lukewarm Reception at Open House

County planners gave status update Thursday at the Upcounty Regional Services Center.

A status update on bus rapid transit system plans drew a lukewarm reception from Upcounty residents during an open house Thursday.

Master Planner Lawrence Cole, who led the presentation at the in Germantown, said a countywide bus rapid transit system would ease pervasive traffic congestion. Bus rapid transit (BRT) is similar to light rail, except that it is operated on county roadways.

But of the 16 corridors proposed, only two prongs stretched north, east of Interstate 270 and just shy of Damascus. Much of the criticism came from Damascus and Clarksburg residents who were unconvinced BRT would improve their weekday commutes. 

“It sounds like a Ride-On bus turbo charged a little bit,” said Barry Fantle, a Clarksburg resident who commutes to Fairfax, Va. He said the trip has taken as long as two and a half hours to complete. “I just don’t see how this would be better.”

After the meeting, Fantle and his wife, Lynn Fantle, who is president of the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee, said they were supportive of BRT but were doubtful the proposed travel zones would make traffic better up north.

Michael Flood, of consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhof, said density wasn’t high enough to justify expanding BRT services. Some commuters, Flood said, might find a more viable option in the planned Corridor Cities Transitway, which would link Shady Grove Road to the COMSAT building.

Cole said a timeline hasn’t been set for the BRT system's completion, though their reports were based on development expected to be in place by 2040.

During the presentation, Cole described an elaborate bus system that shared features of a metro train — ground-level boarding, off-board ticketing and long distances between stops. The routes would rely mostly on existing right of way, spanning 150 miles in a 14-hour circuit.

A preliminary study put the cost of creating such an extensive system at between $2.3 billion and $2.5 billion. The county received a $260,00 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to fund preliminary studies.

Cole said planners expect to present a methodology report to the Montgomery County Planning Board on Dec. 15.

Dale A. Tibbitts, chief of staff for councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large), also attended the open house.

Don O'Brien December 01, 2011 at 06:51 PM
The trouble is that BRT and Light Rail for that matter are intended to move people within high density areas. So they work well running along developed corridors. But Places like Clarksburg (Whoever had the bright idea to build a TOD community out in the sticks should have had their head examined, when it should have been done in an infill area down-county), Poolesville, and Damascus are not good candidates for BRT. There is just too much low density between those towns and the next urban area. Those rural areas would be better served by good Express Ride-On routes like they have in Germantown. There is a route 100 that runs straight from the Germantown Transit center, down I-270 to the Shady Grove Metro. No other stops. Its great and pretty much extends the Red-line to Germantown (and you don't have to find a parking spot at Shady Grove). Express Ride On buses are what the Up County Rural towns could use. BRT to those towns would be a waste of time and resources.
Fran Asbeck November 14, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Don, I agree, you use the 100 and you don;t have to find a parking spot at Shady Grove (or pay for it). BUT, just try to find a parking spot - a legal, yellow-lined one, that is - in the commuter lot at the Germantown bus depot after 9AM! When I need to gto downtown or down-county during the day, I have to park over by the IHOP a block away and cross my fingers that I won't be towed. Let's have adequate parking at Germantown as part of this plan.

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